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TDC Newsroom

The Democracy Commitment is the leading national organization focused on the civic education of community college students.   To such an end, TDC  is an excellent source of information on community college curricular change, how community colleges are educating and engaging students in our democracy, and ensuring that community college voices are heard and do matter in our society.  TDC National Office aims to expand public and student civic knowledge and understanding. Welcome to the National Newsroom

What's New with TDC

The quarterly newsletter from TDC’s National Office is published at least once every semester and contains updates on TDC’s latest work, announcements, opportunites, and news from member institutions.  See below for the most recent issues and archives of previous issues.

National Blog

Our national blog contains important news, updates, announcements, and opportunities from TDC National’s Office on a weekly basis.  Sign up for the mailing list to receive notifications when they posted and check it out frequently to stay up to date.  Contact the national director for opportunities to contribute.

Campus Spotlight: ADP’s Keene State College to have Hillary Clinton Speak on Campus

On Friday, October 16 Keene State University is hostinhrc_headshot_finalg Hilary Clinton in a small town meeting. The town hall meeting will stream live and made available to everyone at, in an effort to provide additional access to the public, and to other colleges and universities that are part of the American Democracy Project and The Democracy Commitment – a nationwide, multi-campus initiative that prepares students for engaged citizenship.

Partner Spotlight: CIRCLE’s Latest Work

From our friends at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE):


Analysis: GOP Candidates Should Reach Out to Youth

The 2016 election cycle is underway, with much of the news and attention so far focused on the race for the Republican nomination, so CIRCLE began to look at national data on youth support for the Republican party. While many assume that young people are solidly Democratic voters, youth support has historically been competitive in presidential elections, and 43% of youth voted for a Republican in House races in 2014.

There is a solid group of young people who have affiliated with or supported the Republican party, and if candidates would like to mobilize these youth, they’ll need to do outreach.

Read more here for CIRCLE’s summary of national data on youth and the Republican party.

Guest Post Series on Impact Measures: Critical Consciousness

As part of CIRCLE’s efforts to promote conversation between research and practice, CIRCLE is hosting a guest post series about impact measures. The first post in the series is from a team of scholars who have developed a series of measures with young people intended to understand the status and changes to young people’s critical consciousness. The authors provide background on the concept and ideas for how the measures can be used by youth programs.

To read their post and access the measures click here. Also, join CIRCLE on Facebook and Twitter for an ongoing conversation about impact measures. Look for more posts about impact measures on the CIRCLE site over the course of the fall.

Text Talk Act | Campus Opportunity to Discuss Mental Health

Text, Talk, Act is a nationwide conversation on mental health and how to help a friend in need. How does this work? A group of friends gets together and through text messaging the group receives discussion questions that lead them through a conversation about mental health. Talking about the importance of mental health issues is essential, but many people don’t know how to start the conversation.


You can register your school, club, or organization to win a prize of $1,000 for participating in Text, Talk, Act of clicking here.

Advancing Political Engagement | Become an NSLVE Campus

The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) is used by TDC and their partner ADP. Over 60% of TDC campuses are already signed up for NSLVE. What is NSLVE? It is an opportunity for colleges and universities to learn about their student’s voting habits and build a national database for research on college student political learning and engagement in democracy. So why should your school participate (if it isn’t already)? The goal of this program is to determine whether or how much civic engagement learning experiences increase the knowledge, skills, and commitment students need to engage in democracy, policy making, politics, and social action. While voting is not the only indicator of civic engagement it is fundamental.

Want more information? Find it here. Want to participate? It’s free, just sign up before October 15, 2015. All you have to do is fill out this form.

What We’re Reading–Rethinking Preparation for Work: A Civic-Enriched Liberal Education

peer reviewRethinking Preparation for Work: A Civic-Enriched Liberal Education
Peer Review Summer 2015, Vol. 17, No. 3In a world where college graduates spend the majority of their public lives engaged in work, this issue of AAC&U’s Peer Review, sponsored by the Kettering Foundation, focuses on how colleges might reconceive preparation for work in addition to preparation for citizenship. Instead of making the case for civic learning  only by noting that civic education skills also are useful in getting a job, this issue explores whether there is a more expansive and civic notion of work to which higher education might contribute. The table of contents for the Peer Review issue is below, with links to full online articles.Rethinking Preparation for Work is what we’re reading. Note the contributions by TDC’s co-founder Bernie Ronan and by ADP’s Seth Pollack and Byron White.


From the Editor
Shelley Johnson Carey


Civic-Rich Preparation for Work
Caryn McTighe Musil, AAC&U

For a Good Life: Integrating Liberal and Civic Arts Education with Work
Elizabeth Minnich, AAC&U

Civic Virtues for Work and Action
Bernie Ronan, Maricopa Community Colleges, and Derek W. M. Barker, Kettering Foundation


Be the Change: Academics as Civic Professionals
Amy Koritz, Drew University, and Paul Schadewald, Macalester College

Weaving Together Career and Civic Commitments for Social Change
José Zapata Calderón, Pitzer College, and Seth S. Pollack, California State University–Monterey Bay

Developing Lifelong Civic Habits at Widener University
James Harris, the University of San Diego and Widener University

Science, Curriculum, and Public Controversies
Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University, Byron P. White, Cleveland State University, and Darlyne Menscer, Carolinas Health Care System

Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries with Civic Literacy
Mary Gowan, James Madison University, and Margaret Salazar-Porzio, Smithsonian Institution


What Does It Mean to Be an Educated Person Today?
Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute


Reconstituting Civic Engagement for Tomorrow’s Students
David J. Maurrasse, Marga Incorporated and Columbia University

Economic Inequality: Youth Homelessness is Focus of Texas A and M University–Central Texas’s Lecture Series

Last week Texas A&M University–Central Texas (TAMUCT) kicked off their Provost Lecture Series to raise awareness and educate the community on the issue of youth homelessness as part of the ADP/TDC Economic Inequality Initiative. The goal if the initiative is to help students think about and take action to confront the complex causes of economic inequality in the United States by helping them become engaged and informed citizens.

The Provost Lecture Series started with a presentation from Allen Redmon, associate professor of English and department chairman of humanities, called “Hollywood’s Invisible Class.” Redmon talked about the relative blindness on youth homelessness in Hollywood films and some reasons such as using it as a plot piece rather than a serious issue that has to be overcome.

“Students need to be more engaged in their democracy — if they don’t know what the problems are, how can they be engaged?” said campus director of the American Democracy Project and associate professor of sociology Michelle Dietert. “Youth homelessness affects many students in Central Texas.”

ADP hopes to produce graduates who are committed to being knowledgeable, involved citizens in their community, which is what this new lecture series is helping to do at TAMUCT.

What We’re Reading: America Needs Talent

In the 20th century the United States was able to be great in large part through new ideas and innovations such as curing polio and other technologies, but in the 21st century the U.S. has to be more creative in the ways it succeeds. According to James Merisotis, author of America Needs Talent (2015), in order tAmerica-Needs-Talent1o foster creativity we have to rethink and redesign the way higher education works; today’s system is inefficient. The system has to be student-centered and invested in talent. People who possess talent help to make a better society. But in order to produce talent, universities and colleges have to change their structures.

A big question asked was; does America need jobs? Merisotis replied by asking who creates jobs? People do. People who have ideas and who are educated create jobs. There is not a lack of jobs in America; rather there is a supply and demand problem. In order to fix this problem higher education has to be fixed; Merisotis described it as a patient in need of healing. One problem with higher education is that two thirds of jobs require post-secondary education, but the cost of production (tuition) keeps going up (at about 2 times the rate of inflation) making post-secondary unaffordable to many students. Another problem is that the labor market isn’t certain that schools are producing what they need. In other words it is not clear that higher education is meeting student or employer needs; more employee surveys have said that they want their employees to have problem solving and teamwork skills. Students need durable skills so that they can more easily switch jobs. The point of his book is that America needs to invest in talent for the sake of its students, communities, jobs and careers, and economy.

The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America

By Gabriel Arteaga, National Manager, The Democracy Commitment (TDC)

New America hosted a discussion recently on the Voting Rights Act called, The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. The discussion was led by Mark Schmitt, director of political reform at New America. He was joined by journalist and author, Ari BermaVRAn and Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

This past August, marked the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), however there have been recent attempts nationally to restrict access to the voting booth, by restrictive voting ID laws and limited voting hours. In his book titled, Give Us the Ballot: provides a historical context to the VRA, argues that while the VRA was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement and it provided the right to vote for millions of Americans, he believes battles are still being waged over race, representation, and political power even to this day.

Nicole Austin-Hillery from the Brennon Center for Justice certainly added to this discussion and offered her belief that the history of this country is about expanding our rights, not suppressing it or making it harder for citizens to be a part our democratic system. She believes in the framework of our county and that regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is of the utmost importance for all of us to focus on voting rights, because it will ensure the growth and vibrancy of our democracy. She offered a solution to some of the issues surrounding voter suppression, by working to modernize voter registration. The Brennon Center has a report that outlines the case for modernizing voter registration, which can be found here.

While at times the discussion seemed a bit daunting, both speakers reminded us that this work requires a lot of effort, but are confident that one day we will achieve a free and equal democratic process.

If you would like your students to hear from these two great thought leaders on voting and civil rights, you may watch the full discussion on the New America website here.

Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative and Stockton’s Constitution Day

By Amanda Adams, AASCU Civic Engagement Intern & Stockton University student

JM_new_coverLast week, Bryan Stevenson was the Constitution Day speaker at Stockton University in New Jersey; he spoke about his book, inequality, mass incarceration, the death penalty and the U.S. Constitution. The reason Stevenson wrote his book, Just Mercy (2014), was to change the way that people think the justice system works. As Stevenson was being introduced at Stockton, he was described as America’s young Nelson Mandela.

Stevenson was an undergraduate philosophy major, but during his senior year he had been asked by countless people what he was going to do with his degree. He realized that no one was going to pay him to be a philosopher. When he started looking into master’s degrees he found out that, “you don’t need to know anything to go to law school” so that is what he did. He became disappointed with law school until he interned in Atlanta.  Due to lack of lawyers at his internship site he was sent to visit death row to inform a man, a prisoner, that he would not be executed within the next year. After hours of talking to this man about their lives and interests the guards forcefully took the man out of the visitation room. Stevenson begged for them to be gentle, but they didn’t listen. While the man was being shackled and forced out the room he told Stevenson, ‘thank you, please come back.” Before the guards could get the man out of the door he started singing a the hymn ‘Higher Ground.’ This stuck with Stevenson and made him realize that that was what he wanted to do with his life; he wanted to help prisoners like this man reach higher ground. Stevenson started to buckle down and studied civil law, criminal law, and much more; that is how he got to where he is today.

During his speech he talked about inequality, mostly in the criminal justice system. Did you know that there are 15 states that do not have a minimum age to try a child as an adult? There are over 10,000 kids in jails and prisons today in the U.S. Did you know that 1 in 3 Black children born today will go to jail or prison at some point in their lifetime and that, based on the number of death row convictions over turned due to new determinations of innocence and, 1 in 9 people on death row are innocent of the crimes they are sentenced to death for?

In order to make a change we have to follow what the Constitution says, transform the narrative on what is going on in our country, and stay hopeful that things will change; without hope there is no chance for change. Stevenson is working on many ways to change the system. Slowly he is trying to change how the courts work along with his colleagues. It is a slow process because the Supreme Court is typically careful and cautious; it takes multiple steps and time to bring about change. A problem that has been seen during this process is that the Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t always change what happens. Another way Stevenson and his colleagues are trying to help is by working with police units to help them gain respect in their communities, reduce crime rates and have officers treat the people in their community with dignity and respect. They have created a booklet of 40 pages of recommendations for police; the major goal is to steer police away from militarization.

Near the end of his speech Stevenson said,” we have not yet seen equality for all in this country,” and, ”the opposite of poverty is justice.” The U.S. Constitution can be an instrument for equality and justice, but it takes our actions as a society to ensure that this document lives up to our ideals.

To learn more about Stevenson’s work check out the website of his foundation, the Equal Justice Initiative.

What happened on National Voter Registration Day?

tdc2National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) was on September 22, 2015. This day is important because it brings together volunteers, organizations, and celebrities from around the country to make sure that no one is left out in the next election. One major reason behind NVRD was the 2008 election where 6 million Americans did not vote because they missed the registration deadline or did not know how to register.
Check out what some of our campuses did for NVRD!
Allegany College or Maryland had volunteers at their campus to help students register to vote.
Georgia Perimeter College held a voter registration drive in their campus lobby so that student had the opportunity to register.
Guttman Community College spread awareness on voter registration to their students to make sure that they registered.